Gladys Carrión Steps Down as Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion, center, cries during a City Council hearing on child abuse cases.

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion, center, cries during a City Council hearing on child abuse cases. Madina Toure/Observer

Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión announced today that she is stepping down, in the aftermath of the deaths of two young boys in Harlem and Brooklyn who endured child abuse.

In an official resignation letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio sent today, Carrión—whom the mayor appointed to serve in the position in 2013—announced that after 40 years of working on behalf of children and families, it is “time for me to retire.” The announcement comes nine days after the death of three-year-old Jaden Jordan and three months after the killing of six-year-old Zymere Perkins, both cases where ACS received warnings of dangerous domestic situations but failed to save the child’s life.

“After three years in this role, and after much thought and deliberation, I am writing to submit my resignation,” Carrión wrote. “I have struggled with this decision but have come to the conclusion that it is best for my well-being.”

The mayor, who had resisted calls for Carrión to resign, said Carrión’s leadership and reforms “have ushered in a heightened level of accountability and performance” at ACS.

“That progress must continue as we work to meet one of the most difficult missions and mandates in city government,” de Blasio said in a statement. “With a search process already underway, New Yorkers can rest assured that the Administration for Children’s Services will continue to be led by a passionate reformer who demands results.”

Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said Carrión will remain the position until they find someone else.

“Search for replacement is underway, and she will stay on until one is in place,” Worthy-Davis said in an emailed statement.

Carrión previously served as the commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. She and de Blasio—who himself served as chairman of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee when he was a city councilman—first met more than 20 years ago when Carrión was serving as commissioner of the city’s Community Development Agency under former Mayor David Dinkins’ administration, where the mayor also got his start.

On December 3, Jordan died shortly after being taken off life support after he was found covered in feces and with a cracked skull at the end of November.

His mother’s 24-year-old boyfriend—who said the child slipped in the bathtub during a bath—was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Daily News, which also noted that the charges are likely to be upped to murder.

ACS said that after two days of investigating an anonymous tip it received, child protective specialists concluded that the caller gave the wrong address. The agency said it then promptly responded to the location and kicked off the investigation.

Both Public Advocate Letitia James—who had said the agency has yet to implement necessary reforms she has proposed—and Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose audit June 2016 audit found that the agency’s investigations into child abuse were inconsistent and incomplete, called for an immediate and transparent probe of the case.

Jordan’s death followed Perkins’ death in September after ACS investigated five abuse allegations lodged against his mother. The agency had since put five child protective services staff on modified assignment and four others were suspended without pay for 30 days and demoted.

At a hearing on Halloween, Carrión broke down in tears as she testified before the City Council on child abuse cases, saying that Perkins’ death was “her responsibility.” The mayor described James’ assertion that Carrión has done a poor job as ACS commissioner as “dead wrong.”

James, for her part, shot back at the time that, “What’s ‘dead wrong’ is dead children,” and claimed that the agency only pursues reforms when a child dies, although Carrión said she would cooperate with her.

In her resignation letter, Carrión reiterated that the mayor invested more than $110 million ACS—funding she said allowed the agency to undertake “unprecedented reforms.”

In a statement, Stringer praised Carrión’s years of services but said that it’s clear that the city is failing its most vulnerable children, citing kids being put in dangerous foster care homes, cluster sites with serious violations or commercial hotels without services.

“City Hall must break down agency silos and put forward a clear, transparent plan for reform,” he said. “Commissioners come and go, but fundamental change must be here to stay.”

James largely echoed that sentiment.

“As Commissioner Carrión steps down, all of us must step up our push to reform the Administration for Children’s Services,” the Public Advocate said in a statement. “I have spoken with the de Blasio Administration about the urgent need for reforms and called for substantive changes that include splitting the responsibilities of ACS into different agencies; implementing rigorous oversight over contract agencies; adequately training and supervising caseworkers; and providing deeper ongoing supports to children in foster care or child preventative services.”

Since 2014, ACS has created more than 630 new positions, created a wide variety of prevention services reaching more than 21,000 families in 2015 and launched the ACS Workforce Institute and Fostering College Success in partnership with CUNY, according to the outgoing commissioner.

She also said that through the federal Title Iv(e)Waiver, the agency reduced case planner caseloads, implemented a trauma assessment of all children in foster care and introduced evidence-based interventions to enhance parenting skills and tackle mental health needs.

And Carrión added that as part of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative, ACS started Trauma Smart to instruct teachers and parents across the EarlyLearn system on how to help their children through traumatic experiences and that New York City has the lowest detention and placement census.

She said that it takes everyone—communities, families, nonprofit partners, community-based organizations, the philanthropic community, advocates, the courts and young people—to address issues affecting children.

“It truly takes all of us to make a difference,” she said.

An ACS spokesman also touted the agency’s reforms.

“As the administration continues an aggressive search for the next ACS Commissioner, our focus remains on the safety and well-being of our city’s children,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement.

This story has been updated to include a statement from ACS.

Gladys Carrión Steps Down as Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner